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What is weightlifting and why I do it

Weightlifting or Olympic weightlifting (a.k.a. Oly lifting or lifting) is an Olympic sport (hence the name) that consists of 2 lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk (see videos below).

When people ask me what I do for exercise (I look fairly strong and fit for a woman my age), I just say “weightlifting” knowing that most people will assume I mean “I lift (pink) weights” or “I do bodybuilding”. Less often, some people think I do powerlifting, which is a completely different beast. I tried to avoid saying the word “Olympic” because some people think this means I actively participate in the Olympic games (LOL!).

Training for Olympic weightlifting involves many assistance exercises besides the snatch and clean & jerk. We need to acquire strength and skill in a variety of muscle groups and movements, and thus we also do squats, deadlifts, press, push press, bench press, pulls, etc. Yes, that includes a variety of bodybuilding moves, such as bicep curls and tricep extensions.

Weightlifting is a weight class sport, which means an extra level of complexity when dealing with athletes’ nutritional demands.

If you spend some time watching weightlifting videos on Youtube you will find different athletes have different styles. The main differences are due to the geographical region of origin. Chinese, Russian and American techniques, for example, are very different if you pay close attention.

My weightlifting story

I discovered weightlifting circa 2012. These days, most people discover weightlifting (and paleo) through Crossfit. I discovered paleo first, weightlifting and Crossfit several years later through Robb Wolf’s podcast. I found Atletika Weightlifting on the interwebs and booked an intro session. I fell in love with the sport because it challenged me big time. I trained for a few years with Sarah and Ricky until they had to move the gym further West.

In 2015, I started training with Andrew at Crossfit Sydney and I’m happy with the programming and my progress so far.

Even though they have different coaching styles, Sarah, Ricky and Andrew are not only fantastic coaches but great human beings.

Why I like weightlifting

I have come a long way since I first squatted an empty bar overhead to assess my mobility, but because I started training so late in life (in general, not just weightlifting), I find it incredibly hard to make huge improvements. That is the main reason why, aside from a few internal comps, I have chosen not to participate in unofficial (e.g. interclub) nor official competitions.

Weightlifting is a tough sport that requires speed, strength and proper neurological activation. Moreover, it requires mental resiliency and a competitive spirit, even if this means competing with yourself. This is what has me hooked.

The other aspect of weightlifting I enjoy is the meditative nature of it. You need to be 100% tuned in and let go of thoughts and feelings in order to make a lift. You need to be patient and cool with impermanence (my Buddhist friends might appreciate the metaphor).

The coach

Unlike other exercise modalities, you cannot do weightlifting without a coach (you may record video of your lifts and have a virtual coach, but you need a coach regardless). It is important to choose the right coach for you. This is highly individual, but my top reasons for choosing a coach over another are:

  • you get along well
  • they have experience in your particular demographic
  • they have knowledge about how to work around injury and strengthen weaknesses
  • they are able to get results

Benefits of weightlifting

Below is an excerpt from Health benefits of resistance training from Victoria’s Better Health Channel.

Physical and mental health benefits that can be achieved through resistance training include:

  • improved muscle strength and tone – to protect your joints from injury
  • maintaining flexibility and balance
  • weight management and increased muscle-to-fat ratio
  • greater stamina – as you grow stronger, you won’t get tired as easily
  • prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, back pain, depression and obesity
  • increased bone density and strength and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • improved sense of wellbeing – resistance training may boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and your mood
  • a better night’s sleep and avoidance of insomnia
  • enhanced performance of everyday tasks

Should you do weightlifting?

It depends on your preferences, really. You should be active, period. If weightlifting sounds like something you might enjoy, by all means give it a shot. You might get hooked like I did.

[Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash]

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